Wednesday, November 4, 2015

6 Essential Elements of a Well-Crafted IT Project Plan

For some businesses, the key to the company's salvation is business transformation by means of an information technology implementation project. But complex changes in business and system processes are risk-laden ventures, each one subject to internal and external threats. For this reason, a company's survival can depend on the near perfect execution of a well-crafted project plan that's created with careful consideration of all relevant issues, such as project scope and risk management.

Information Technology Project Scope

A first step in planning an IT project is gaining stakeholder agreement as to what work is within a project's scope. A plan's scope statement solidifies a project's scope and identifies the project manager and sponsor, as well as specifies the project's business and technical objectives and its anticipated completion date.

Project scope information guides a team's efforts toward producing a particular outcome within a certain time frame and for a particular cost. Consequently, a well-documented and agreed-to project scope is required to prevent the arbitrary expansion of a project's original objectives. The project manager commences work on the project scope document after leadership approval is given to planning the IT project.

IT Project Risk Management Plan

Risk management is another key element of the project planning process, which specifies how a project team plans to identify, prioritize and mitigate the impact of unforeseen events. To create this plan, the project team documents project risks that must be managed during a project's life cycle, such as financial risks. The risk management plan also identifies the actions the project team will take to address risks when it's cost-effective and reasonable to do so.

To plan for contingencies, the team creates a risk register that describes risks, such as those that may delay project completion or that may cause project costs to exceed the project budget. Also, the team specifies the preferred risk-response strategies that will negate or limit a risk's impact. Project team members complete the risk management plan in an early phase of the project's life cycle.

Information Technology Project Change Management Plan

Because a project is not a static undertaking and change is required as new project needs are identified, the team must create a change management plan. This plan ensures that a team focuses their efforts on the correct issues at the right time and for the right reasons. A simple question, "What must change for the project to be a success in terms of meeting its primary objectives and serving its stakeholders" can alert a project team of a needed project plan change and triggers efforts to document, evaluate, approve, prioritize, schedule and track the changes.

To revise a project plan, a team member creates a project change request and the project manager identifies change agents responsible for the implementing the change and assigns them the authority needed to ensure team members comply with the plan. The project manager creates the change management plan early in the project life cycle and specifies that a change will be considered if it aligns with project goals, provides value to the existing initiative and achieves benefits that exceed their costs.

IT Project Work Breakdown Structure

The work breakdown structure (WBS) provides a view of a project's hierarchy or its "big picture," and includes the individual activities a team will perform during a project's life cycle to accomplish project objectives.

After a project scope is defined, a project manager creates a WBS based on project deliverables, such as a report or software program.  Next, the PM breaks down these objectives to the intermediate objectives, which are subdivided to intermediate requirements.  For instance, to create a report, a team member may need to create a questionnaire or conduct interviews. The work breakdown structure supports the project cost estimation, project scheduling and work assignment processes. The project manager creates the work plan after the project scope is defined.

IT Project Communication Plan

Project communication may relate to a change in a project's scope, its risk, the project schedule, or the project staff or budget. Consequently, poor communication between a project manager, project sponsor and other stakeholders can increase project risks, the duplication of effort, the omission of needed activities and the misallocation of resources. To avoid these circumstances, all planned for communications between stakeholders is noted in a project communication plan, which is created by the project manager (PM), who also monitors the team's compliance with the plan.

The PM determines the objectives of each communication, when particular information is released, in what format information is released, to whom the information is distributed and how the information is stored.  After the project scope is firmly established, the communication plan can be created.

Information Technology Project Resource Plan

A project manager documents the number and types of resources a project requires in a project resource plan, which  the PM creates after a project scope is defined and approved by project stakeholders. As he creates the plan, the project manager makes note of resource availability, as well as resource costs.

To create the resource plan, the PM identifies the roles needed to accomplish each project plan activity, as well as the needed equipment and consumables, such as photocopiers, computers and telecommunications equipment, and copy paper and ink cartridges.

Companies commit to a business transformation by means of an information technology implementation project to achieve particular business goals. Any change in a business or system process, however, is a risk-laden venture. A company limits its exposure by drafting and adhering to a well-crafted project plan that's created with careful consideration of all relevant issues, such as project scope and risk management.


The Ohio State University: Project Management Framework

CIO: How to Create a Clear Project Plan, Elizabeth and Richard Larson, 09-10- 2004


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